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Former hockey enforcer's book says steroids, stimulants ended his career
March 21, 2005
MONTREAL (CP) - Former hockey enforcer Dave (Moose) Morissette says steroids and stimulants helped end his modest career.
And he hopes to warn young players off performance-enhancing drugs by telling all in Memoires d'Un Dur a Cuire (Memoires of an Enforcer), co-written by Montreal La Presse hockey writer Mathias Brunet. "I'm 33 and I've got two kids," Morissette said Monday at the book-launching at a downtown nightclub. "I didn't make the right choices and I don't want them to make the same choices.
"If I save one life, that's one life. By not talking about it, the kids keep doing it."
Morissette says he began taking steroids shortly after he was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 1991. He began using stimulants like the cold remedy Sudafed and a caffeine-ephedrine mix called Ripped Fuel, while playing junior hockey.
He says use of steroids and stimulants is common in the NHL, but does not name any players who used them. The league does not currently test for performance-enhancing drugs.
Use of such drugs is in the spotlight of late due to allegations in a recent book by former baseball slugger Jose Canseco.
"I don't want to tarnish my sport with this book, nor to point the finger at any individuals as the baseball player Jose Canseco recently did," Morissette writes at the end of his 183-page book. "I just want to make my little contribution towards stopping these dangerous practises.
"There were steroids before me and there will be steroids after. The system is such that young people are ready to do anything to get maximum performance." NHL executive Bill Daly said in a statement the league hopes to negotiate a drug-testing program with the players' association.
Defenceman Stephane Quintal of the Los Angeles Kings said at the book launch he'd like to see a tough testing program. He spent the season in Italy, where a doping offence carries a two-year suspension.
"There's no first offence or second offence, you're gone," said Quintal. "The NHL should come out with something like that - like the Olympics."
When asked if doping was common in the NHL, Quintal said: "Sudafed is something a lot of guys use but steroids, I've seen it a couple of times but on tough guys, but not on skill guys."
Morissette played only 11 NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens between 1998 and 2000 - collecting no points and 57 penalty minutes. A seventh-round pick of the Capitals, he plied his trade in the minors with Hampton Roads and Roanoke (ECHL), Baltimore, Fredericton and Quebec (AHL), Minnesota and Houston (IHL), Austin and Lake Charles (WPHL) and overseas in England.
He said bulking up on steroids led to repeated knee injuries because his body could not sustain his weight. But he needed the muscle-building drugs to compete with hockey's best fighters.
"To make it to the NHL, I had to commit to being an enforcer," he says. "Not everyone can be an effective fighter. "And I needed steroids to get there, because I knew that the majority of toughs of the NHL were taking them." He said steroids were in use in his day - the late 1980s and early 1990s - in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which last season instituted a drug-testing program.
"I heard about guys in junior taking steroids to get bigger and build muscle mass," he says. "And not only tough guys - scorers too. "Some of them had long careers in the NHL. I can't name them here, but you'd be surprised to learn their identities."
Morissette said he first bought steroids from a bodybuilder he knew in Trois-Rivieres, Que. He avoided buying them from anyone connected to hockey to keep it a secret.
He also became addicted to stimulants, often popping three or four before games. "I still get stomach pains because of those pills," he says. "I have to take medication for nausea and I'm still sensitive to light and loud noises."
He could not tell the Montreal doctor who finally advised him to retire how many concussions he had suffered during his career. He stopped counting at 20. The final blow to the head came during a game for the London Knights in Britain in the 2000-01 season and knocked him out for 30 minutes.
"It became hellish," he says. "Every other time, I'd black out after a bodycheck, which meant I was losing consciousness every game.
"If I banged my helmet against an opponent, it would go black for a few seconds."
The book's preface was written by Christiane Ayotte, head of Montreal's IOC-accredited dope-testing laboratory. She praises Morissette for "daring to break the silence surrounding the culture of doping that is present in this sport as in others."
At the launch, Ayotte said opinion is turning in favour of dope-testing in North American pro sports.
"Things are beginning to change in the USA, which comes from the BALCO scandal, which has brought awareness to the problem of drugs in sports," she said. "So we have some hope that the situation is going to change."
Mostly, the book is about the life of a player with modest talent who turns to fighting to fulfil his dream of playing in the NHL. He spent years battling in the minor leagues only to get a brief taste of the big league - at a terrible cost to his health.
Morissette wonders if his closest friend, former NHL player Stephane Morin who died of a heart attack during a game in Germany, or former teammate Sergei Zholtok, who died last fall of heart failure during a game in Belarus, were victims of stimulants. "I don't know," he says in the book. "I never asked them.
"You don't ask these things. Each person does his own thing, neither hiding it nor showing it off. It's important to put it into context. It was normal for us to take them. These products weren't banned and you could find them in any pharmacy, gym or health club. It wasn't dope."
Morissette now lives in St-Hyacinthe, Que., where he has a restaurant and other businesses which he said were "doing really well.
"My goal wasn't to make money," he said. "I'm still alive. And if I can change something, that would be perfect."